Posted by: lucylastic | April 18, 2011

Ballet Russes – a night of glamour, colour and learning……..

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no ballet aficionado, but an unexpected invitation from my friend Curious Girl – to go to the ballet with her filled me with intrigue. A very long time ago, (think early 1960’s) my doting parents paid for me to attend Miss Hapgood’s Dancing Academy in Southsea, where I had a role in the much lauded ‘Baby’s Song Time’ aged 2 and a half! From there, I progressed to the dizzy heights of a 3 night ‘run’ at St Swithin’s Primary School in an end of term production of ‘The Sugar Plum Fairy’, (the full ballet of the Sleeping Beauty being far too long and intricate for us 5 year olds)!!! A short time afterwards, my parents relocated two hundred miles to ‘the Wirral’, a soulless wilderness of arts and culture and no local ballet class within miles of our new abode, (allegedly). The imminent arrival of sibling number 3, my sister C, no doubt occupied my parents far more than searching for a ballet school, but at that point, my dancing career foundered……………

Those who know me now, may struggle to see me as a ballet dancer – I am more akin to Dawn French in her brilliant sketch performed with Darcy Bussell as a mirror image than I am to the lovely Darcy herself, see it on YouTube is you haven’t seen it before……. But I still like a bit of a bop every now and then.

So, off to London I go. Travel is amazing – the prompt departure from Swindon of the 16.04 deposited me at London Paddington at 17.06 – then a very tardy tube finally arrived to carry me the seemingly interminable 6 stops to Piccadilly Circus – then a swift change to be transported the last few yards to Leicester Square. By the time I arrived – it was almost the length of the trip from Swindon to Paddington all over again! CG was waiting patiently outside our appointed eating house, Browns – which turned out to be heaving, so we settled for the less frantic, but very lovely Bertorelli’s just down the road. I shall briefly digress into the menu – as it was well worth the visit – CG had courgette flowers for starters, I had baby squid, then it was main’s of house special mushroom risotto for her and pig’s cheek ravioli for me – both delicious. We managed to find room for desserts as well – lemon tart for CG and orange and chocolate ice cream for me, with espresso all over it – it wasn’t quite what I thought I’d ordered, but somehow, I managed to squeeze it in. Accompanied by some sparkling water all round, (it is still Lent after all) we hit the Coliseum.

It was my first visit to the Coliseum. and I hope it won’t be my last – a beautiful intimate theatre – we had amazing seats on the front row – just above the orchestra pit – well chosen CG!!!! I am quite short, so often find myself stuck behind someone and unable to see clearly, this was perfect – the orchestra below, so we could peek over at them and an uninterrupted view of the stage. Now, what I knew (still know) about Diaghilev could be written on a very small piece of paper – but it doesn’t take much knowledge to be royally entertained and appreciate the grace and skill of the dancers…………the evening consisted of 3 of Diaghilev’s ‘ballet Russes’ – you can see a whole list of them here – We were treated to Le Pavilion d’Armide – a fabulously colourful tale of a beautiful girl, a slave and a prince and the course of unrequited love. The costumes were wonderful – luscious and glowing – ruby reds, vermillions and lots of gold – a joy to watch – I kept finding myself with a silly smile on my face as I got swept up into the story and it’s comedy and tragedy moments. Then an interval – for once, I was glad to be on water – £12.75 for 125ml of Veuve Cliquot! Ridiculous – but it didn’t seem to stop lots of ladies “d’un age certain” drinking it. Lots of well-preserved faces, lots of well coutured outfits, lots of Russian and French being spoken – plus a few people in jeans to bring the common touch.

Into the second half the elderly gentleman at the end of the row next to mine was clearly feeling at home – off came his shoes, (placed neatly alongside the seat), toes a’ wiggling he settled into the performance with obvious enjoyment, but I noticed he made quite a swift departure while the many curtain calls were still happening at the end! Next came L’apres-midi d’un faune – essentially a piece for 2 dancers, the male faun and the female nymph, though a few extra nymphs appeared every now and then to give the second string dancers an outing. This piece was considered scandalous when it was first performed in Paris in 1912 – as it contained overt sexual imagery that shocked a number of the more sensitive in the audience. In 2011, it seemed quite tame and tasteful enough. The grand finale was an adaptation of Bolero – known to many as the ‘Torville & Dean’ music from a long ago Olympics, it was a piece that challenged orchestra and dancers alike. Ravel’s stirring music builds and builds without ever seeming to reach a crescendo – though it did finally finish – some 20 minutes later – I felt much for the wind instruments who were looking somewhat drained by the end. The principal female dancer – a more mature member of the troupe strutted her stuff beautifully and bent into some almost impossible poses. Bravo.

There is much more I could say – the compere’s hair – clearly on loan from a wig maker who hadn’t had the benefit of fitting him personally, the stories and characters and dancers and their provenance – but I would be kidding you that I know far more than I do. And I am sure you can find it on ‘t’internet’ if you want to.

A huge thank you to CG who has opened my eyes to this entertainment – I sincerely hope it won’t be my last experience of Ballet Russes!



  1. Great piece Lucy! I am so behind with blogging I shall leave this review in your capable hands….have only just written about the marathon. The Maryinsky (Kirov) are in London soon, my faves, so we should go again!

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